May 11, 2015

Social Media: engaging in Mother's Day, Rahul and UK voting

Mother's day is a special day for all because mothers are so special a creature, and nobody is borne without a mother - at least till now. So, social media was abuzz with Mother's Day messages, nostalgic black and white photos and selfies with mothers.

Be it Hollywood, India's Bollywood, leading sports stars, political leaders... most of them had something to say on this day. Many websites also announced competitions. So, these days, real mothers / fathers / sisters get an annual day to cheer through virtual compliments; happy days! ♫ ♫


A screen grab from @officeofrg

Rahul Gandhi, who?


In India, Twitter finally discovered Rahul, the crown prince of Congress - still a formidable political voice even after drubbing at last May's general elections. Grudgingly came Rahul on social media - with a Twitter account that too is not his 'personal' account; it is @OfficeOfRG. What a way to engage on social media!

Now and then, we have been tracking Indian politicians' web / social media activities. In this detailed post on Indian politicians' web presence, we have shown how mechanically the social media is being managed by a back-up team of these politicians, without even an occasional personal touch. @ShashiTharoor, of course, and @Modi are prominent exceptions. Among Bollywood celebrities, Amitabh Bachan gets our salute for writing posts on his blog with untiring regularity. Most others are like Rahul Gandhi only.


UK elections and the social media


In the UK elections just held, social media was extremely active, as was expected. Many articles have been written on blogs and in print about how much the social media influenced the elections. However, its role as serious informer and voting influencer is not fully clear. It seems logical that when it comes to keeping the buzz going and encouraging people to vote, social media plays a salutary role. 

Remember, in 2010 UK elections, social media was given credit for being a major influencer, and in 2008 itself, the US elections were called 'social media elections'. In India, a lot of swing of youth voter was credited to social media during the 2014 elections despite poor internet penetration in most parts of the country.

Coming back to the UK, it has been reported that on Facebook, right wing party supporters dominated and on Twitter, the left wing. Predictions made based on social media engagement failed, as also the opinion polls and surveys. Some things are clear: Going by just number of followers, likes, tweets, buzz etc to guess who wins is plain stupid. It is also stupid to be swayed by the smart mood / trend / sentiment analysis given by tech firms - until the technology is able to replace human mind to a good extent. Influencing social media users by advertising etc may help but only to a limited extent; and what portion of that results in votes is not clear.

Let us link here two brilliantly written articles on social media role in elections: the first one was written just before the results (discusses history of social media use in elections and how social media was behaving in the UK at that time) and the second one after that.